The Green Glories of Italy

By Olwen Woodier

Italian gardens vary widely in style, ranging from sophisticated designs incorporating elaborate terraces and water constructions influenced by the court gardens of France and Rome, to country gardens built as rustic and romantic retreats for the aristocracy. The gardens surrounding these ancient hillside villas offer a quiet sense of beauty from the grassy walks leading through shady groves to sunny gardens bursting with a heady mix of bright colors and exotic scents and textures.

The numerous villas in this region are all worth a visit. To name a few: Villa Garzoni in Collodi; Villa La Pietra in Florence; Villa Medici in Fiesole; Villa Celsa in Sovicille, Siena; and Villa Torrigiani, Camigilano, Lucca.
Villa Gamberaia, Settignano
This is one of the most perfect small gardens in Tuscany, near Florence. Set above the Arno Valley, this 16th-century garden has undergone a magical rebirth after it was burned to the ground, along with the villa, during World War II. Behind the villa, there is a water garden, a parterre surrounded with clipped yew and boxwood hedges. Small woodland hollies and periwinkle separates the house from the pebble-walled grotto, and on a terrace above this little wood there is a lemon grove, plantings of red roses and wisteria.

La Ninfa, Rome
Known as the City of Dreams, this garden, south of Rome, is one of the most beautiful in all of Europe. Somewhat English in style, it contains more than 10,000 plants collected from all over the world, many of which grow rampantly over and among the medieval ruins of a town. There are hundreds of old roses and masses of peonies, columbines, and dogwoods, which thrive to super abundance in the garden’s microclimate and fertile soil.

Olwen Woodier, an advanced master gardener living in Virginia, has written several books on the subject and numerous magazine and newspaper articles, including chapters for the Time-Life series on gardening. She combined her love of plants with a passion for cooking in her award-winning Apple Cookbook and teaches adults in both endeavors.

Published: 21 Feb 2001 | Last Updated: 14 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


Sign up to Away's Travel Insider

Preview newsletter »